Along Came A Shadow

Posted on Wed Mar 23rd, 2022 @ 8:08pm by Aszari & Maul
Edited on on Wed Mar 23rd, 2022 @ 8:18pm

Mission: Episode 2 - The Empire Rises!
Location: Mandalore
Timeline: During "Let's Go to the Maul"

The Mandalorians were disarming. Pacifism was a funny thing, but who was Aszari to argue? Guns were part of the Mandalorian religion as surely as the Force was part of the Jedi’s, yet Mandos seemed to be turning over a new leaf. She had once thought there was no known power in the galaxy that could come between a Mandalorian and their armaments and armor. And yet here she stood, clad in a black hood in the corner of a veranda that overlooked the city square, witnessing the impossible.

Of course, the Galactic Empire was a force of nature in and of itself the likes of which had not been seen in millennia, to say nothing of the Mandalorian Civil War. There were threads woven within threads taking place here, and Aszari's keen eye took in them all. A recent discovery had been made, one which might have made the inexplicable disarmament of the Mandalorians a farce and a feint for something far more potent.

And then scouts from the new Imperial Fleet had made its discovery. One of the new Star Destroyers which had previously been only rumors now hovered in orbit like a sword suspended overhead. Threads within threads indeed.

From her vantage point, she could see the mighty Bes'uliik, or “iron beast” in Mando’a, that had occupied the city square, depowered and dormant like a hibernating behemoth after thousands of years of interment. The Basilisk war droids were the mainstay of the Mandalorian Wars during the Old Republic. How had this one been preserved in one piece after all this time? Aszari had to know more.

When she jumped from the veranda, it was Force-assisted. Aszari was carried on eddies of the Living Force toward the Basilisk and its surrounding complement of Mandalorian soldiers. When she landed, it was in a shroud of the Force that obscured her from sight and scanners alike. The arguing Mandalorians were too engrossed in their deliberations to notice. It seemed there was some dispute over the nature of what was happening.

An armistice had been declared. Cease and desist. Disarm. Await further orders from the Empire.

Aszari did a double-take. Empire? An arch overtook her brow. So much for the vaunted monarchy of Mandalore.

Stepping out from the shadows, she assumed a strong posture and strode toward the three arguing Mandalorians.

“Ke’shush!” she shouted in Mando’a.

Immediately the soldiers turned around to see who had called for their attention. When they looked at Aszari, they didn’t see a sultry Chiss in a midnight shawl. Instead they saw a Mandalorian of Clan Kryze.

“Dinuir ni te tome'tayl petir be te bes'uliik!” she ordered in Mando’a.

While she wasn’t especially fluent in the language, she relied on the Force to help the Mandos overlook the breaches in her grammar or etiquette while they retrieved the Basilisk’s memory core for her. Two of the Mandos appeared to hesitate, but the third one turned around and went to the rear access panel for the Basilisk. Another of his compatriots joined him when asked.

The third Mando, though, stood confused, even unconvinced.

“Meg ol'averde vaabir gar alorir?” he asked, questioning what regiment she commanded.

“Ibic solus,” Aszari said on a bluff. She’d claimed command of the present regiment. “Ra vaabir gar copad at challenge ni at alorir?”

Doubling down on her bluff, Aszari had asked the strong-willed Mando if he was challenging her for command. The Mandalorian sized her up and shook his head.

“Slanar Gaa'tayl te t'ad,” she said with a nod toward the others. Before he could comply, they were already lugging the memory core between them.
Aszari blinked. It must weigh half a ton! That wouldn't do.

“Naritir bic daab,” she said, nodding at the ground in front of her where the others put the memory core down as indicated.

Walking up to it, Aszari quickly identified a data port where she could use her slicer for an improvised interface. Much of the data that came up was in Mando’a, which she could not read despite her Force-driven oral fluency. With the data in hand, Aszari's master would be able to fashion a control unit for the mighty war mech with which he could steal the Basilisk at a later time of his choosing.

All too easy, Aszari thought with a smirk.

“Halt!” shouted a voice from behind her. “Step away from the war droid and be identified!”

It was an Imperial officer in a soulless gray uniform. And he had friends. Six of them, clad in something vaguely resembling Clone armor. And none of them had been ‘persuaded’ to see her as anything other than a Chiss woman in black. With her ruse all but gone, she used the last few remaining seconds of it to hopefully turn odds back in her favor.

“Ram’or!” she shouted in Mandoa.

The three tricked Mandalorians obeyed the order to attack and rushed the Imperials without question. Aszari took advantage of the fracas and sprinted away with her feet propelled and her body veiled by the Force.

Sounds of an igniting jetpack behind her were far more disconcerting. What passed for law enforcement on Mandalore had surely been alerted to her.

Aszari ran for all she was worth, ducking out of the main city square and under cover while the lead Mandalorian scanned for her from the air. Fool. He would never spot her now. Smiling at her own ingenuity, Aszari headed back inside the building to the underground access tunnels that would lead her out of the city and back to her ship.

It would have been flawless, except that Jetpack had radioed ahead. The access tunnels filled with a squad of fully armored Mandalorians who hadn’t seemed to get the memo about disarmament. Though they were still as statues, Aszari knew better than to underestimate them. Force tricks wouldn’t work here. Their weapons were already drawn and would fire on anything that moved.

Removing her twin shotos, Aszari held them in hand without igniting just yet. Timing had to be just right, or this would turn into a protracted battle that would attract unwanted attention. She took a breath, found her center, yielded to the Force in preparation of wielding it.

And then she struck.

In a blur of motion, Aszari rushed around the corner and dropped to a kneeling position. Her hands stretched out, projecting the same Force eddies that had propelled her at superhuman speed, Aszari's Force pull took hold of the disruptor rifles pointed in her direction. When her hands flung back, linking the Force pull to her limbs, the rifles flew behind her. The Mandalorians were gunless now, but they were far from unarmed. They unsheathed their single-edged Beskads and prepared for battle.

Aszari rushed forward, feigning a forward attack, but at the last minute dropped to her knees and slid between them. Her shotos ignited into a fiery purple at the last second. The overconfidence her opponents surely wilted. While their beskar could withstand direct strikes, there was no armor that could withstand a lightsaber at the joints and straps that held its pieces in place.

Four swift, strategic slices, and the four Mandalorians were struggling to keep their armor in place. It was almost cruel the way she stuck her shotos into their necks, one after another, and Aszari almost felt sorry. In seconds, she was past them and already heading for the tunnel exit.

The ship she had used was quickly commandeered and boarded by Imperial forces, but it was a small thing to initiate self-destruct on it and then Force persuade the Imperial officer to allow her to board his ship. Her silky, dusky voice was a thing of enchantment even without the Force which overpowered their minds. The contingent of troopers on board the shuttle craft fell to her shotos even faster than the Mandos in the tunnels.

On a clear flight path out of the system, she sent a transmission to her master.

"I confirmed the rumor. The Mandos unearthed a Basilisk of old, and I obtained the control protocols from its memory core."

The horned visage of Maul appeared on the other end. "At last! Deliver the data to a secure drop."

Aszari was surprised at the command. "Truly? I had thought to hand deliver the prize."

"No." The word was bitter and dripping with rage. "Mun Zuir is dead." The word stretched out his lips as if he had taken a bite of something bitter. "Perhaps by Jedi, though whoever ended him did so with a brutality and sadism I had not thought the Jedi capable of. I command you to find his killer and all who ally with them. Slay any who oppose you, but bring all perpetrators to me."

"Yes, Master," said Aszari. "Where shall I begin?"

Maul grit his teeth. "I remain at Port Nowhere. The battle which claimed Zuir took half the station with it. But as with all things, I intend to claim it and use the destruction to build it greater than before. It shall be a fitting citadel as any."

That was well and good, but Aszari needed details. "What of the survivors? How did they make their escape?"

"I am transmitting you specifications on all known ships missing from the port on that day," Maul said. "Track them down. Ascertain their identities. Fulfill my command."

"Yes, Master." The look on Aszari's face was unreadably serene. "None shall see me coming."